Looking through old photos last night I came across an image of my very first dog. Not my first dog as an adult; that was an Airedale named Mandy. I got Mandy when I was eighteen years old. I had a dog as a child, just one and I was lucky to have that. I didn't come from a dog family; I know, weird. I have four brothers and sisters and we begged for years for a dog. Finally we got this little guy in the photo, Strawberry. Yes he was a boy with the name Strawberry. We didn't name him, he came that way at the age of 18 months old. Am. Cdn. Ch. MaGriffe William Strawberry.
My parents had snuck off to look at him as a possibility. Not being a dog person at all my mother considered this little non shedding tiny guy to be the perfect solution. Not the best choice for 5 kids who have never had a dog before; we bombarded the poor little guy with instant and abundant affection. But he fit in quickly. It was amazing how well he did because he came from an adult only home and had been a show dog for his entire life. When he came to us he was a Canadian/American Champion; of course as a child this meant nothing to me.
I spent many long hours with Strawberry, I'd dreamed of the day I would have my own dog and it had finally come. I'd been in love with dogs years before his arrival. I had imagined a gorgeous Irish Setter as my first dog. The idea had been ingrained since I watch the Disney movie Big Red one Sunday night. That was it, I was hooked. But how much did Strawberry add to my love of dogs? A great deal.
Having the chance to get up close and personal is essential. If you only get the chance to love dogs from a far you never really experience 'a dog.' I remember into my teenage years as Strawberry became a little old man, carrying him around zipped up in my bathrobe. I adored him. The first is always a huge learning experience. I've worked with so many people who have never had a dog before and the range of canine knowledge is wide in first timers. Some people get a dog having no idea of anything canine, others have done their research but still have yet to lay hands on the real deal.
Not until you live with dogs can you completely understand what it is like. That is if you allow yourself to go into the world of dogs. Some people live with dogs for years without ever leaving the surface type of relationship. Each and every dog that comes through our lives prepares us for the next. We all make mistakes, heck I've made a load of them but it is all a learning curve. Life is an evolution of oneself if you allow it to be.
Looking back is nostalgic, often it makes us long for a life we had back then. But one of my favorite sayings now is "don't look back, you aren't going that way." I try very hard to live life facing forwards. Everyone has a first, that first has usually altered your life drastically. I know Strawberry sure helped to catapult me to where I am today. Since that little guy, there have been many who have been involved in my evolution. But Strawberry was the first.